All the buzz at the recent Agenda Trade Show in Long Beach, Calif. was centered on the upstart footwear brand Filament, and the attention garnered was all thanks to legendary former pro skater/industry veteran/Filament founder, Tim Gavin. Gavin, one of the early street skating technicians, is regarded as a visionary with the ability to forecast the ebb and flow of the skateboarding industry. His 1992 video part in the 8-minute Blind Skateboards promo video "Tim and Henry’s Pack of Lies," is a certified classic and ahead of its time. In 1993, he left Blind to be one of the flagship pros on the newly formed Girl Skateboards and in 1995, he co-founded DVS, one of the original skater-owned footwear brands and one of the top-selling brands for nearly a decade. After 18 years as DVS’ vice president, a complete collapse of the skate-economy and an invasion of mainstream footwear brands that resulted in most core/skater-owned footwear companies downsizing or going out of business, Gavin felt it was time to get a fresh start. Co-founded with former Nike and DC designer Bryon Schroeder, Filament is choosing to blaze a new trail as a lifestyle brand made by skaters and for skaters. XGames.com caught up with Gavin to get the scoop on the new brand, the state of the skateboard industry and his possible return to the pro ranks.
XGames.com: When did you depart DVS?
Gavin: DVS went through a lot in a short period of time. We grew the business every year and ran into growing pains financially and ended up getting a line of credit with Bank of America. In 2007, the economy went south and we had incredible sales erosion due to retailers going out of business, distributors becoming financially distressed, etc. It impacted us on a global level quickly. We didn't react quickly nor responsibly and ended up with a note that was due with no money to pay for it. Things happen fast. I was partners in Lakai and didn't want the name Lakai to be dragged into the rumor mill as Lakai had no issues financially, so I sold my shares of Lakai to Rick [Howard] and Mike [Carroll] and the Girl crew. We ended up selling DVS in bankruptcy. And I just recently parted ways, as I wanted to do my own thing with my own vision that I thought our industry needed. I'm grateful for another opportunity!
In a time when Vans and Nike rule supreme and most core skate shoe companies are struggling to survive, why start a new skate shoe brand?
We aren't a skate shoe brand, we are a footwear company. Vans is great at creating vulcanized footwear and have had hard times making anything outside of that speciality in the past. Nike is going to do the inevitable, which quite frankly doesn't have the core retailer in mind. So I think retailers are in need of a footwear company that is going to offer something different, new and fresh. It's our responsibility in this industry as a company to be accountable for our actions, and we are responsible for what has happened with the big boys penetrating our market. They aren't more knowledgeable than us in our industry, they just have more financial power. We need to provide our customers with good product as product prevails.
Why the name Filament?
Filament has a few meanings. It's the illumination within a light bulb and we see Filament as the bright idea. The other meaning is different fibers coming together establishing fabric. Filament to us is creative people coming together establishing one common thread.
Not being a skate shoe company, will Filament have riders or support skaters?
Filament is rooted in skateboarding with my background. We are going to have ambassadors from all types: skateboarding, art and music. These are the things we love. This trifecta of vital creative expressions is the single thread that makes up the Filament Brand. Our mission is to inspire and empower creative expression.
What are the goals of the brand? What will set it apart from other footwear brands?
The goals for Filament are to create product that consumers see as fashionable, unique and provide quality and performance. Our approach to design and development will set us apart. We aren't looking at anyone else when it comes to design. I think a lot of brands are chasing business and cannibalizing off one another, and subsequently, they lose their identity and consumers don't know whom they relate with. We are shipping our first season in July and you can find it at specialty skate and lifestyle stores.
Being an insider with 18 years at DVS, why do you feel core shoe brands are in the position they’re in (on the outside looking in on their own industry?) Can the tide be turned back?
I co-founded DVS back in 1995. I think it's all due to total mismanagement. There are too many brands out there with retailers carrying too much inventory with no sell through. I think the entire industry is responsible for what's going on. Brands shouldn't be shipping product to retailers with dated receivables. Right now, things are changing fast and if you don't embrace this change, you will have no business. A lot of brands are having to take on more inventory risks as retailers aren't pre-booking like the old days. They're scared and with that, they minimize their risk with brands having to carry inventory.
Your "Tim and Henry's Pack of Lies" video part was legendary and many of your classmates from that era are still going strong. Do you ever regret pursuing the office job with DVS instead of trying to maintain a skate career?
Not at all. Skateboarding has given me everything, from a passion for skateboarding to my personal identity. But what it also gave me, which I would have never been able to gain in school, is a business sense. Skateboarding in my era was so fun -- it looks more scary than fun these days. No matter if I'm on a board or involved in a business; as long as it involves skateboarding, I'm at home.
I read in Thrasher you were hoping to get back on the board. Has that happened?
No, I have a family and I don't have the time. I have cruised around but the thought of me trying a backside tailslide. I have visions of cracking my head open.
You're 40 years old this year. What does 2014 hold for you and what's your five-year plan?
To stay healthy and be grateful for my life today.